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Friday, September 3, 2010

The White House Initiative on Americas Great Outdoors

Hi all, I was invited to a listening session hosted by Federal officials sent from Washington and President Obama. Our president has created a dialog on what is right...and what is wrong with our outdoors activities, lands and heritage. He wants to know what we as Americans think about our natural resources and wild lands. It was an interesting meeting and when i arrived at the Bangor Civic Center on Thursday Sept 2nd I was ushered to a large room with at least 300 Mainers. There were many high ranking officials at the maine table...We started with an intro from 5 Washington officials... Nancy Sutley, chair, white house council on environmantal quality.
Ann Mills, deputy undersec for nat resources and environment
dep assistant sec for fish, wildlife and parks
the director of the nat park service
director, region office of ecosystem, EPA

They started off with statements.
Then local outdoors officials participated with a Q&A for an hour or so. Then we broke off into working groups of about 50 people per room...there were six rooms..each had two fed officials and three admin assistants that took the minutes. all the comments are supposed to be fused into a report for the President. What follows are my's just my notes...and I did change a little on the fly is basically what i said.
I really don't know if it made a difference ..but i feel better after saying my opinions...

National outdoors conversation remarks

Good afternoon. I want to thank my friend and colleague Cheryl Daigle for inviting me to attend America’s great outdoors listening initiative. My name is Pete Douvarjo. I’m the owner of Eggemoggin Guide Service, located in Sedgwick. I’m also the Vice President of The Maine Charter Capt’s Assoc. Our membership includes nearly 80 charter Capt.’s up and down the coast of Maine. The Maine Charter Capt’s Assoc has publicly stated our support for the Penob river Restoration Project. Myself and our members, all depend on healthy rivers and bays to sustain our small businesses. This ambitious project was quite a surprise when one Monday morning, I awoke to read in the Bangor Daily News, that a disparate group of people got together and made an agreement to try and restore this historic watershed. I must say that doing all this work and doing it under the radar, so to speak, certainly impressed me! While it may not be returning back to the original river it once was…It is a great start and will, as you all know, open approximately 1000 miles of spawning habitat to the diadromous fish that are most important to myself and our membership. The Penobscot is the largest watershed in the state…and I believe the 8th or 9th largest watershed in the nation!! In my opinion, what will follow in the wake of the two dams being removed and the howland dam bypass, is going to be astounding! Within a few years the returning alewives and herring alone will number in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions! Those returning prey species will feed the predatory fish that live in Penobscot bay, the river and up into the river’s backwaters. They will be preyed upon by cod, haddock, striped bass, blue fin tuna and others. Having more food for those predator fish will mean an increase in the fish we all love to catch. As the herring and alewife begin the spring spawning migration, they will be preyed upon. After the spawn up river they will return to sea to again feed hungry predators. Their eggs and later, as juveniles, the baby herring and alewives will become food for smallmouth bass and land locked salmon , upriver! We will soon see bigger and healthier fish upriver, in what is already, a world class smallmouth bass fishery. Then in the fall, juvenile baitfish will leave the river and become once again, prey to all the creatures in the bay. I for one can’t wait to see the result of this most worthy and ambitious project.

Over the last four or five years my business has declined over 60 %. The main reason being… I have NO STRIPERS TO CATCH! The bay has been pretty much barren of life. We still get a few mackerel in the summer….there are a few cod and Pollock. With nothing but a great smallmouth fishery up river, I have basically, had very little to fish for. This is and has been a major problem. This season, I spent a small fortune on a new and bigger boat, suitable to go offshore. Plus all the very expensive, heavy duty gear and tackle. I have to travel over 30 miles from my home port to fish for tuna, sharks and ground fish. It was just five years ago. I was able to take clients out for 4 or 6 hr charters. We’d only have a 30 minute run to the striper grounds…we’d catch many nice fat, fresh fish. Then a short ride back to the dock. It was affordable, safe and great fun for all. And my 20’ Lund was comfortable, fast and very economical…very important in a small business. Those days are over. Spend a day offshore in 4 to 5 foot seas chasing pelagic fish...It’s hard work for a 54 year old man! I want my striped bass back! And my fuel bill has gone up dramatically. I charge what seems like an exorbitant fee for offshore trips but my expenses, my gear and all other associated costs are enormous. That is without anything breaking! If a tuna breaks off with a lure in it’s mouth it’s 25 to 90 dollars worth of lure!!

The problem in Maine starts with the problems in the Chesapeake Bay. Over fishing, pollution, mismanagement, poaching and disease is taking a toll on Chesapeake stripers. Those fish make up the majority of the stripers we catch here in Maine. Our federal gov has done a terrible job managing not only stripers but almost all other fish. The Atlantic Striped Bass management Council should be ashamed of the poor way they manage the striped bass fishery. They deny the fact that striped bass are in trouble and are in danger of another collapse such as the one in the mid 70’s. They’re seriously contemplating increasing the commercial quota on the harvesting of stripers. Ladies and gentlemen…THERE SHOULD BE NO COMMERCIAL HARVEST OF THE STRIPED BASS AT ALL, NEVER MIND INCREASING IT !!!.
They will not listen to experienced charter fishermen. People with many years of experience who are on the water day after day…. People, who I dare say, should have the most input on the decisions dealing with managing fish.
5 years ago there were over 3.5 million stripers landed ,and most of them released, on the Maine coast. Two years ago there were just over ½ million. That comes directly from the federal marine statistics survey report.
All Atlantic states but two, have experienced serious declines in recreational landings.

The federal government allows a reduction fishery for menhaden. You have to understand, menhaden are the most important fish in the sea. They provide high protein/high fat food that grows fish big and healthy. I understand that commercial fishermen rely on menhaden for bait. Recreational fishermen need them for catching stripers . the fish need them to sustain themselves. And we all need them for a very important reason….they are the only creature I know of that can eat and eliminate red tide algae. Proper populations of menhaden can control those huge red tide outbreaks we’ve been experiencing recently. The bottom line is the federal government is directly responsible for the decline in menhaden and needs to step up to the plate and stop the reduction fishery and allow the populations to be restored so we can all utilize the resource fairly!

I want to see money put towards researching stripers and other game fish. New fish hatcheries are needed to jump start the diadromous fish returns once the dams are removed. That costs money. The white house and legislature need to find a way to fund this! It is vitally important.
The Penobscot can and will support striped bass spawning!! It may not be exactly a striper heaven like the kennebec, but it is more then adequate to give us our own native fish!

Former President Ronald Reagan once said, “The most feared introduction in the world is: Hi I’m from the government and I’m here to help…”

I read the entire memorandum released by the white house related to this nationwide white house proposal. In it, I saw fishing and hunting mentioned only briefly. I read lot’s of flowery language and nice friendly words. But I saw very little about what I and millions of Americans think is most important. I question why the National Fish and Wildlife Agency is not listed as part of this Presidential initiative. I would think they would be critically important in any decisions concerning our outdoors heritage.
I worry about what the true agenda of this strategy for Americas outdoors is. I fear it is about wildlife sanctuaries and marine protected areas. Where you can look but no hunting or fishing…paddle but not power boat…hike but not drive an atv…snowshoe but not snowmobile… we need to protect traditional hunting and fishing activities first and foremost! Please make sure to represent all Americans. Not just a privileged few.

Thank you for this time and congratulations to the Penobscot Restoration organization. This project is a shining example of what caring stewards of our great waterways can accomplish with nothing but an idea and will to start something. I am proud to be associated with you…

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post.

    There are means to clean up water and restoring fish at the same time.

    Diatoms can do the job well.